Pancreatic cancer begins in the pancreas, an organ in the abdomen that lies behind the lower part of your stomach. The pancreas helps in the digestion of food through the release of hormones.
Pancreatic cancers usually start in the ducts of your pancreas. It ranks as the fourth most common type of cancer and among one of the deadliest forms of cancer in the world. It is important to have a basic understanding of this disease, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. So, that your symptoms can be identified early to improve your survival rates for successful treatment and recovery.
What Causes Pancreatic Cancer?
Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas – a gland located behind the stomach, begin to grow uncontrollably. It is not yet clear what causes this uncontrolled growth, but several risk factors can increase your chances of developing pancreatic cancer.
The common risk factors to cause pancreatic cancer are –
- People over the age of 65
- Smoking cigarettes and other forms of tobacco
- Diabetes especially type-2 diabetes
- Family history of pancreatic cancer
- Chronic pancreatitis, a long-term inflammation of the pancreas, can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Genetic mutations such as BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes are passed from biological parent to child.
- Exposure to certain chemicals like pesticides and petrochemicals
It is important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not necessarily mean that you will develop pancreatic cancer.
Types of Pancreatic Cancer
There are two types of Pancreatic Cancer include –
- Exocrine tumors – Over 90% of cancer tumors are exocrine tumors. The most common type of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma which begins in the cell line of organs.
- Neuroendocrine tumors – Around 10% of pancreatic tumors are neuroendocrine tumors (NETs).
Signs and Symptoms
Pancreatic cancer often does not cause any symptoms in its early stages. This can make it difficult to diagnose the disease before it has spread to other parts of the body. However, as cancer grows and spreads, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including –
- Jaundice – Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes that occurs when the liver is unable to process bilirubin, a waste product created by the breakdown of red blood cells. When pancreatic cancer blocks the bile duct, bilirubin builds up in the body, causing jaundice.
- Abdominal Pain – Pancreatic cancer can cause pain in the abdomen, particularly in the upper abdomen or back.
- Weight Loss – Unintentional weight loss is a common symptom of pancreatic cancer. This occurs when cancer causes a loss of appetite or interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
- Nausea and Vomiting – Pancreatic cancer can cause nausea and vomiting, particularly after eating.
- Changes in Stool – Pancreatic cancer can cause changes in bowel movements, including diarrhea, constipation, or pale, greasy stools.
Stages of Pancreatic Cancer
If you are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, your doctor will likely use a staging system to determine how advanced the disease is. The stages of pancreatic cancer are:
The cancer is limited to the lining of the pancreas and has not spread to nearby tissues.
The cancer is still limited to the pancreas but has grown beyond the lining.
Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but has not spread to other parts of the body.
Cancer has spread to nearby blood vessels and lymph nodes.
Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver, lungs, or bones.
Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cancer
If you are experiencing symptoms of pancreatic cancer, your doctor will likely perform a variety of tests to diagnose the disease. These tests may include:
1. Imaging Tests
Imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRI scans, can help your doctor visualize the pancreas and identify any abnormalities.
2. Blood Tests
Blood tests can help your doctor identify any abnormalities in your blood that may be indicative of pancreatic cancer.
A biopsy involves taking a sample of tissue from the pancreas and examining it under a microscope to look for signs of cancer.
4. Genetic Testing
It helps in determining if pancreatic cancer has a mutation in genes of BRCA1 and BRCA2 that can cause different types of cancer such as prostate, ovarian, and pancreatic.
There are several treatment options available for pancreatic cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Surgery is often the first line of treatment for pancreatic cancer. The type of surgery you undergo will depend on the stage, type, and location of the tumor. Common types of surgery for pancreatic cancer include –
- Whipple procedure – if the tumor is located at the head of the pancreas then the Whipple procedure is often recommended. It removes the head of your pancreas, gallbladder, a portion of the bile duct, and nearby lymph nodes.
- Distal pancreatectomy – if the tumor is located at the tail of the pancreas then the Distal pancreatectomy is performed. It removes the tail, nearby parts, and spleen to stop the spread of growth.
- Total pancreatectomy – if the tumor is spread to the entire portion of the pancreas then the Distal pancreatectomy is performed. This procedure, it removes the entire pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, and part of your stomach and small intestine.
Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with surgery or radiation therapy for better results. It specifically targets more advanced types of pancreatic cancer. The common chemotherapy drugs used to treat these diseases are gemcitabine and folfirinox.
3. Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy involves using high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It is often used in combination with chemotherapy or surgery for successful treatment procedures. Doctors usually recommend radiation therapy before surgery, after surgery, or as a main cancer treatment option.
Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer
While there is no surefire way to prevent pancreatic cancer, there are several prevention strategies you can take to reduce your risk of developing the disease. These include –
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a balanced diet
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting alcohol consumption
Pancreatic cancer is a serious and often deadly disease, but with early detection and proper treatment, it is possible to improve your chances of survival. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for pancreatic cancer, you can take steps to protect your health and stay informed.
If you’ve concerns regarding your treatments and disorders then you can connect to Uhapo’s contact page – https://www.uhapo.co.in/contact/ or 24/7 Support Number +91-9137-44-1392 for supportive care regarding your necessary issues with cancer.